Tag Archives: Coach K

A “Jeff Capel Sit With Us” Take

Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel is and will always be a part of the Duke Brotherhood. During last evening's Duke win over Pitt, the Cameron Crazies set into motion a chant which went, "Jeff Capel sit with us."

That chant drew the ire of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski. As the first half ended Krzyzewski went over to the students clearly perturbed, telling the fans to stop it, he is one of us.

Krzyzewski had a locker room to get to, so he could not linger to chat about the situation. And that brings up a key point I will shed light on to make for some clarity.

A Duke Basketball game for Mike Krzyzewski and his staff is all business on game day and especially in live game competition. A look around on game day will see his managers working in military unison. Everything is structured and that is one reason the program has flourished.

Some in the media seemed shocked by Krzyzewski's action, but not so much me. Having covered Duke for over a decade in Cameron Indoor Stadium, I have pretty much seen it all. And for that matter, heard it all be it the fans or what is considered Cameron decorum.

But let's back up a second, for Krzyzewski also said that he misunderstood the cheer during his post-game press conference. And he apologized for the situation, but he was still mildly taken aback and I will explain my take on that.

Here is a comment from Krzyzewski on Capel, “I love Jeff. Jeff is my son, man. We’re part of a brotherhood. Playing against him is very difficult. I don’t like it.”

There were multiple levels of emotion in Cameron Indoor Stadium last night. Krzyzewski has told the media on many occasions he hates coaching against his former players and from covering this team for a long time I know this to be true.

Add to that, Krzyzewski coached Team USA to three Gold Medals and those teams were led in part by recently departed Kobe Bryant. And Duke commemorated his passing with a pre-game ceremony complete with special warmups and 24 ticks of silence.

With so much going on in a game Duke needed to win to move in a second-place tie with Florida State in the ACC, it should not surprise long time followers of the team that Krzyzewski did not like a cheer.

Even after the air was cleared and apologies made, the chant still puzzled Krzyzewski and others who realized the timing of the cheer was off and the head man seemingly thought the cheer was taunting at first.

"I apologized for you know... let us think of a different chant," said Krzyzewski before lightening the mood offering up some basic cheers. He continued by saying leave the other guy alone meaning Capel.

But he also brought up the fact that what was said was not a basketball cheer. Look, there is no doubt the Duke students meant "Jeff Capel sit with us" chant as adoration and respect. And to be fair, the students follow the lead of a single individual who starts the cheers.

What was questionable about the timing of the cheer is that it bled into live game action. Also, the "So and so, sit with us," chant is in place for a prospect or recruits, former players and the occasional celebrity visitor to Cameron but not the opposing coach.

I mean, was Jeff Capel expected to acknowledge the cheer during live game action? Trust me, the coach of another team in the heat of an ACC basketball game is not going to smile and wave even if he is a Duke alum.

In fairness to the students, the cheer started during a timeout. The problem is it continued for a good bit during game action and was awkward. While Krzyzewski and Capel are locked on their teams in live game action, the cheer felt out of place.

The truth of the matter is that the cheer while innocuous in nature came at an inappropriate time. And it is the first time I have seen the cheer used in a way that I cannot fathom why the support was not on game action.

I see the whole issue as a learning experience for all. But it is expected be it fair or not for some who steer the cheers to do so with a basketball IQ. Save the cheers for the right time but do not distract from actual live game action.

The good news is this will fade, but because of the situation, Krzyzewski will get a little bad press from varying uninformed spins. It was an emotional night where people should be talking about the former Olympic coach and the Duke tribute to Kobe Bryant not to mention a good win.

The students can give their coach an assist and help keep the focus on where it should be just paying a little more attention to detail. But make no mistake, Krzyzewski and Duke need the Cameron Crazies and he stated that he loves them, something that did not get lost in translation.

Louisville Knocks Duke Back But Not Out

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski pretty much called it like it was when he said the Louisville team ran their offense better than Duke did in the Cardinals 79-73 win over the Blue Devils.

This was after be brought attention to one of the most physical games of the ACC season which saw Duke drop its second consecutive ACC game which dropped them into third place.

"The term “freedom of movement” was not alive and well tonight. I hope we don’t have the rest of the conference like that. That’s not good basketball," said the Duke head man in his opening statement to the media.

Earlier in the day a few of the ESPN talking heads had been talking about the game trending towards physical play and letting a lot more go with concern to movement than in seasons past.

The Louisville offense kept it simple, score in the paint or by the three-point shot. Of their 79 points, 65 of them came in the paint or on made three-pointers. And the Cards knocked down 50% of their three's to boot.

On the other side of the ledger, Duke connected on 6 of 25 from the three-point stripe. But take away Matthew Hurt going 3-5 and the Blue Devils were just 3 of 20.

Duke also had trouble executing their offense after staging the comeback where the Cards once held a 15 point lead. But the Blue Devils struggled to execute the offense in the last few minutes of a close game.

Louisville won by kicking the ball out on fast breaks, especially in the first half when they turned Duke over early and often. There initial play to start the game knocked the Blue Devils back while giving the visitors confidence and they held on for the win

Duke had some positives in a game they'll certainly learn from participating in. They were literally on the ropes but managed to keep fighting putting themselves in a position to win.

Cassius Stanley tallied career highs with 25 points to go with 11 rebounds. Matthew Hurt continued to contribute on the offensive end and not to be lost were the 7 rebounds and 5 steals Jack White contributed. Duke also cut down their turnovers to just six after starting the game with ten in ten minutes.

All in all, this game took a herculean Louisville effort, their bigs making threes, foul trouble and some guys having career games on the other side of the ball for Duke to lose.

There is no doubt that this win will propel the Cardinals into a better position mentally after they stumbled a bit early with three losses. But Louisville was always a top ten team and will be the remainder of the season.

Duke, on the other hand, was handed its third loss of the year, and this will likely drop them to the bottom of the top ten in the polls this week. But do not expect that to last provided the Blue Devils remain healthy.

"We just have to get older. I’m really up on my team. It’s a long journey. I’ve never told you that we’re great. It’s a process for us, playing these two teams," said Krzyzewski who continued, "Getting beat, we have to learn from it and move on. It’s a long journey.”

Coach K Talks Duke Win over MSU

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski addressed the media after the huge win over Michigan State last evening.

Opening statement

We played so hard and we needed to, to beat them. The crowd was great. Tom's teams are so good, and this team really advances the ball probably as fast as anyone in the country, and so overall, I thought we did a good job of getting back. Actually, we had a lot more fast break points than I could ever have imagined in this game and so much of that had to do with Tre (Jones) and how our big guys ran the court, especially Javin (DeLaurier). Javin had not played to the level he is capable until tonight. He was a difference maker for us. I thought our big guys did a very good job. Yeah, we won a tough game. On becoming a top five team… This is a huge win, but that doesn't mean you've arrived. We are placed in a very difficult situation, our conference put us in a situation where we will get back at 4 in the morning and literally, we are in the toughest week of our academic year, the week before exams. Two of our kids took tests last night here and now we got to go back and in the next day, Thursday, we fly to Blacksburg (Virginia). It is really not a good scheduling thing by our conference, and we will see how our guys react. Obviously, we are real pleased with a win and now we got to put that behind us very quickly.

On the veterans playing a big part in the game…

It is a good point and Joey has just worked every day. He comes to work everyday and every time he is put in the game, he's done well. In our last game against Winthrop, they are very good, they could be an NCAA team. Joey (Baker) and Jordan Goldwire were the difference and Jack (White) has been just solid. I think he had a couple blocks and three steals, and he had a big three, so everyone contributed. We needed to; they are a very deep team. The foul trouble that we had, especially in the first half, kind of can mess you up a little bit and they hit us with that run right away and I thought our kids really did a great job after the timeout of regaining poise and get control of the game.

On Vernon Carey…

He played a great game. Our guys look for him and the key for him is he is 9-for-12 from the free throw line and he missed a couple on the break. He could've had over 30 in this game and our guys look for him, but really for a freshman, especially for a big guy, to have that poise in the post is commendable. On Vernon Carey's big play in blocking shot after screen… Then I had to sub him because he was gassed. He is not just a big guy, he's a basketball player. He has really good lateral movement but playing at this pace, you get tired so the subbing that we did were for all of our big because Jack was on the perimeter and big. It helped a lot.

On what he saw from his team defensively…

We had blocked shots and got some turnovers. We didn't go into the game thinking we're going to block as many shots or get the steals. Our guys were really tough in making an extra play. Like you were beaten, the team was beaten, but then we weren't. We had probably about eight plays like that where there could've been scores for them and our kids just made that extra play. That was superb. That's not coaching; that's what I mean, the competitiveness that they had. They got beat and then they still recovered, which saved the game for us. Saved the game for us, no question.

On his message to the team before big games like this…

I just tell them, if you want to sing your song, you want to sing it in front of a big audience. You not only come into our program, but you're coming to Michigan State's program wanting to play in these type of environments. I didn't know how our kids would respond. You can want and then all of a sudden you get and it can go sideways, but tonight, they wanted, they got and they responded. Cool thing; I'm proud of them for doing that.

On the friendship between him and Coach Izzo, and calling him a couple weeks ago…

I admire the heck out of him and Michigan State's program. We have two of the best programs in sport, not just in basketball. We have it because of the values and the standards, the principles that he evokes and we do too. And it started with Jud (Heathcote), too. I mean, Michigan State is the crème de la crème and we are too. There's not one. When you are that, you have ultimate respect for the guy leading the other group. I know he has that for me and I have that for him. Consistent excellence is not easily achieved and Michigan State has had consistent excellence because of Tom and his amazing staff. I mean, his staff has been together for a long time and the support. Their former players are like our former players. They feel like they are part of a family. And Tom – what is this, his 25th year? He's a young whipper-snapper (laughing). 40 (points to himself). When you have that continuity, then those players come back and there's family. Not many programs – hardly any programs have that. They do and we do; we're two of them. That's why we're very, very close

The Duke Offense is Coming Along

One of the concerns for this season's edition of Duke Basketball was where would the offense come from. Last year, it was clear that Duke was led by two of the NBA's top three draft picks in Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski while running an immensely successful program is quick to tell you that he handles each team differently. That means there is no preferred system from yeat to year.

At some point in the pre-season, the hall of fame coach will gather his assistant coaches and come up with a game plan for their rostered players.

It is obvious that this year's team does not have two alpha dogs which will lead the team in scoring. The plan this year is for Duke to get all of their rostered players prepared to score the ball.

So far, the aforementioned plan is working. Duke has only played three games but it has become clear that a different player could lead the team in scoring on a given night.

Matthew Hurt came off the bench for the first time to lead the team in scoring with a current career-high of 19 points in the win over Central Arkansas.

In the win over Colorado State, Cassius Stanley led the way with 19 points. And in the opening night win over Kansas Tre Jones led the way with 15 points. The sample size after three games points to early success in creating a new offense

The Blue Devils have had four, five and then six players in double-figure scoring during the 3-0 start. Surprisingly, to date, Duke has had little trouble finding points on the offensive end.

Krzyzewski said in the pre-season that he would play more players as well. Many scoffed at that comment in that he has in the past gotten down to a core group of players he trusts.

But many who did not believe what they were hearing had not covered some of the early years Krzyzewski coached Duke teams. And while playing time may lead to a shortened bench at crunch times in close games to come, it is clear that there is not enough separation by players to not continue to see Duke using more players than some are accustomed to seeing.

In a sense, this new trend will not allow for opponents to focus on any one player. And that is a positive as the team gets more accustomed to one another.

And if you have not figured it out by now, it is clear that Duke has no set starters past Tre Jones and that we will see a lot more combinations in the coming days before ACC play begins in earnest.

Duke is still very much a work in progress, but Krzyzewski focussed a lot of effort on his team's defense knowing the offense would come as the season progressed.

The defense has been good thus far and some of that comes from playing more players. It means, legs remain fresh and his players can go all out when playing. But more importantly, it allows for the offense to develop its identity.

While there is still plenty of work to do for this team to become all it can be, Krzyzewski has had a good start to his staff's vision. But make no mistake, there will be challenges and more adjustments along the way.

Duke is a very young team with some veterans helping the young guys along. With a win over Georgia State this Friday as the 2K Empire Classic continues, Duke will likely be the new number one rated team in the polls. That will open a whole new can of worms and teaching opportunities for the staff in how to handle the hype which comes with the honor.

Matthew Hurt Joins Duke Brotherhood

A major Duke target, Matthew Hurt, announced this afternoon that he will be the newest Blue Devil.

The 6-9, 210 pounds, Minnesota native played his high school basketball for John Marshall in Rochester.

Hurt will join fellow Minnesota native Tre Jones who elected to return for his sophomore season.  It is believed that this helped in his recruitment.

Duke had been a favorite for the last several months and Hurt spurned Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina to play in Durham.

Hurt received 19 total offers but many teams fell to the wayside with him being a consensus five-star prospect.

The Blue Devils head coach, Mike Krzyzewski took a vested interest in Hurt's recruitment where he played.  Duke played the long game with Hurt, whom they knew would not make an early decision.

Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer was the lead assistant in Hurt's recruitment.

The entire Duke coaching staff visited in-home with the Hurt family in early March.

The fact that four blue blood programs sought Hurt's services speaks volumes with concern to his talent.  A very skilled offensive player with size, Hurt is all but penciled into next years starting five.

Hurt was a mainstay on Team USA during his high school basketball career.   He was also named to the McDonald's All American game.  Hurt also garnered the Minnesota Mr. Basketball Award.

With Hurt on board, the Blue Devils will now turn their attention to Cassius Stanley, a high-flying, top-rated shooting guard from California.  He will make his decision this coming Monday.

Hurt joins Vernon Carey Jr., Wendell Moore Jr, and Boogie Ellis giving Duke one of the nation's elite recruiting classes.



Duke vs Michigan State – The Last Minute List

Can Tre Jones put together another great game? Or will the Spartans defense send him and his teammates home? A lot of questions will be answered tomorrow.

The Duke Blue Devils will take on the Michigan State Spartans with a trip to the Final Four on the line.  With the game just hours away, let's take a look at the matchup.

Forget the Past

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has a gaudy record against Michigan State and Tom Izzo.  Duke leads the series 12-2 and has a 4-1 mark in the NCAA Tournament, but forget about it for that means nothing when the ball is tipped tomorrow.  These two teams have only one thing in common with the past and that is their uniforms and being two top-notch programs.  The record book means nothing.

Forty Minutes and maybe more

Duke must come out willing to play consistently.  The Blue Devils squandered some mild leads to hang on against Central Florida and Virginia Tech with lapses.  Whichever team is prepared to bring it end to end and the one with the best focus will enjoy a trip to the Final Four.  A season ago, the basketball Gods were unkind to a Grayson Allen tip in that rimmed out.  If you take care of your business it may not come down to that,

Respect your opponent

I doubt the Duke staff lets the team be overconfident.  If this does not happen, the team returns to Durham and some of the talented freshmen will soon be gone.  Teams must live in the moment and make the safe plays at times over the crowd-pleasing ones for the margin of error shrinks in tournament games, especially the Elite Eight.

Will Cam play?

Sure, Cam Reddish can knock down the three ball, but his defense is underrated.  His presence allows Duke to play the passing lanes in a more active manner and his long arms take up a lot of space.  Reddish is a game-time decision, but the team will need him.

The Spartans are Red Hot

Sparty is 10-1 in their last eleven games and they swept Michigan who most thought should be flip-flopped in their regions.  Obviously, the one and two seeds made it to the final in the East to nobody's surprise.  Duke is hot too after winning the ACC Tournament but they have looked quite mortal of late.  This game means the world to the Spartans fan base, but the same holds true for Duke and this is one of Mike Krzyzewski's best shots to make it back to the Final Four since 2015.

Duke Must Be Strong with the Ball

Michigan State plays stellar half-court defense where it seems like hands are everywhere.  When Duke is in its half-court offense they need to pay attention to having strong hands for if not, the turnovers will come.  In a game with this meaning, making safe plays outweighs the showtime style.

The Word is Out

In my preseason preview, I mentioned four possible weaknesses.  The first, of course, was injuries in that Duke is not especially deep with players ready for prime time.  The second was that they could struggle from the three-point stripe and third, free throw shooting would be important.  The fourth thing I listed was that teams with good guards and physical wings would give Duke trouble, especially if they hit the three ball.  Well, Michigan State fits the bill.  Duke must push them off the stripe and make them drive.

May the Stars be Stars

Zion Williamson has had an amazing season and he should touch the ball in every half court possession.  Good things happen when he gets the ball.  The same goes for RJ Barrett who is a flat out stat stuffer.  Michigan State has a lot of capable defenders to guard him, so his vision will play a key role.  Making the safe passes will make Duke more efficient and tougher to beat.

Board the Offensive Glass

Duke has not been especially good on the offensive glass of late and Michigan State is a solid rebounding team.  And they board from many positions with their activity.  Duke needs to block out and hustle for the loose balls in this contest.

Of course,  it will be tense...

This is a matchup of college basketball heavyweights.  The Big 10 Champ against the ACC Champ and that means there will be plenty of tense moments.  Duke has won their last two games by 2 points and they may have another game that comes down to the final buzzer.  Hey, whatever it takes, right?

How Fresh?

Mike Krzyzewski mentioned that his team was fresh coming into the D.C. regional or fresher was his exact term.  Does that still hold true after the late game where the team got little rest?  It will probably depend on how the staff handles this evening before the 5:05 start.

What will happen?

Who knows, but it will be a battle of styles.  Duke will try to get out and press some while Michigan State will lean heavily on the three ball while hitting the board with their usual reckless abandon.  Can Duke get back to more dominating performances?  Will Michigan State play lights out ball to end the pain of their past against Duke?  It will come down to heart and soul and playing a good forty minutes of basketball.


The X-Factor could be an unexpected player stepping up and whether Duke is with or without Cam Reddish, their whole roster needs to play well.  The problem with the X-Factor is that it can work both ways and players who step up become heroes.

The Last Word

Do not look ahead.  Be in the moment and you may cut down the nets as the Eastern Regional Champs.  Texas Tech upset Gonzaga and awaits the winner, but that is to be discussed once the business at hand is accomplished.